Top 8 winter things to do in Beijing

Beijing, a city steeped in history and culture, takes on a different persona during winter. As the temperature drops, the city's iconic landmarks and bustling streets are transformed under a blanket of snow, offering a new perspective on the ancient capital. Winter in Beijing is not just about braving the cold; it's about discovering the unique charm and beauty that the season brings to this vibrant metropolis.

The winter season in Beijing, typically lasting from late November to early March, is characterized by crisp, clear days and a stark, enchanting, serene beauty. This is a time when the city's parks and palaces become quiet, snow-covered retreats, and the local cuisine takes on a heartier, more comforting form to ward off the chill. It's also a season of celebration, with the city coming alive during the Chinese New Year with vibrant decorations, fireworks, and traditional festivities.

For travelers and locals alike, winter in Beijing is an opportunity to engage in various activities unique to the season. From outdoor adventures like ice skating and skiing to cultural experiences such as opera performances and art exhibitions, the city offers a rich tapestry of experiences. In this blog post, we delve into the myriad of activities that make Beijing a must-visit destination during the winter months, ensuring that your experience is as warm and inviting as the city itself.

1. Explore the frozen beauty of the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, an exquisite example of Chinese landscape garden design, takes on a surreal beauty in winter. The vast Kunming Lake, transformed into a vast icy expanse, contrasts strikingly with the ancient pavilions and intricately designed bridges, each adorned with a delicate layer of snow.

Visitors can enjoy a serene walk along the Long Corridor, its walls adorned with thousands of traditional Chinese paintings, now set against the tranquil backdrop of a winter landscape. The frozen lake also becomes a playground for locals enjoying ice-chair sliding, adding a lively atmosphere to the otherwise serene setting.

The Palace's less crowded pathways in winter allow for a more contemplative exploration of this historic site, where one can truly appreciate the blend of natural beauty, art, and history.

2. Experience the thrill of ice skating at Shichahai

Shichahai, a scenic area comprising three interconnected lakes, becomes a hub of winter joy as it transforms into one of Beijing's most beloved outdoor ice skating rinks. The experience of skating here is unique, blending the charm of old Beijing with the exhilaration of gliding over ice. Surrounded by ancient hutongs and historical landmarks, the area offers a picturesque setting for this classic winter activity.

After enjoying the ice, visitors can delve into the nearby hutong alleys, exploring traditional tea houses and sampling local snacks, making it a perfect day for both activity and cultural exploration.

3. Indulge in traditional winter foods

Beijing's culinary scene in winter is a delightful journey through flavors designed to warm the soul. The city's signature dish, Peking Duck, is a culinary masterpiece, especially enjoyable in the colder months with its crispy skin and succulent meat served alongside thin pancakes and sweet bean sauce. Street food also takes on a seasonal twist; candied hawthorn and roasted chestnuts are popular, providing sweet and savory warmth on chilly days.

Beijing's hot pot, particularly the Mongolian style with its rich and aromatic broth, has become popular, offering a communal and heartwarming dining experience. These culinary experiences are not just about the food but also about the warmth and camaraderie they bring, embodying the spirit of Beijing's winter.

4. Skiing adventures near Beijing

The mountainous regions near Beijing offer a delightful escape for skiing enthusiasts. Nanshan Ski Village, located about an hour's drive from the city, boasts a range of slopes suitable for beginners, intermediate skiers, and snowboarders. The resort also offers snow tubing and other fun activities, making it a family-friendly destination.

Huaibei International Ski Resort, uniquely located near the Great Wall at Jiugukou, combines the thrill of winter sports with the awe-inspiring views of one of the world's most famous monuments. Though smaller than their global counterparts, these resorts are equipped with modern facilities, providing a convenient and enjoyable skiing experience close to the capital.

5. Celebrate Chinese New Year in style

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is a time of joyous celebration and rich traditions in Beijing. The city is adorned with red lanterns and traditional decorations, symbolizing good fortune and happiness. The Temple Fairs, held in various historic temples and parks, are a highlight of the festivities.

These fairs offer a vibrant mix of folk performances, traditional arts and crafts, and an array of local delicacies. Visitors can watch dragon and lion dances, participate in cultural workshops, and enjoy the festive atmosphere that envelops the city. It's a time when the rich tapestry of Chinese culture is on full display, offering an unforgettable experience.

6. Winter hiking on the Great Wall

Hiking the Great Wall of China in winter is a serene and majestic experience. The Mutianyu and Badaling sections, easily accessible from Beijing, offer a less crowded and more tranquil environment compared to the busy tourist seasons. The sight of the Great Wall snaking through a landscape blanketed in snow is picturesque and offers a sense of peace and solitude.

The crisp winter air and clear skies provide excellent photography conditions, capturing this ancient wonder's timeless beauty. This unique experience allows visitors to appreciate the grandeur of the Great Wall in a quiet, reflective setting.

7. Discover Beijing's contemporary art scene

Beijing's 798 Art Zone, a former industrial complex turned into a bustling art district, offers a warm refuge from the winter cold. With its unique blend of old factory spaces and modern art, this area has become a symbol of Beijing's contemporary cultural scene. The district is home to a myriad of galleries showcasing everything from cutting-edge contemporary art to more traditional Chinese works.

Winter is an ideal time to explore these indoor spaces leisurely, where one can find thought-provoking installations, vibrant paintings, and intricate sculptures. The area is also dotted with quirky cafes and boutique shops, making it a perfect spot to unwind and reflect on the art viewed. The 798 Art Zone's dynamic atmosphere is a testament to Beijing's evolving identity as a global cultural hub.

8. Enjoy a Peking Opera performance

Peking Opera, a traditional Chinese performing art, is a fascinating blend of music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. The performances are known for their elaborate costumes, stunning makeup, and expressive movements. Watching a Peking Opera show is like stepping into a different era, with stories often based on Chinese history and folklore.

The Liyuan Theatre, among others, offers performances that cater to both locals and tourists, with English subtitles to help non-Chinese speakers follow the story. The experience is not just about the show itself but also about appreciating an art form that has been integral to Chinese culture for centuries.

In conclusion

As our exploration of Beijing in winter comes to a close, it's clear that the city offers a wealth of experiences that go far beyond the typical tourist trail. Winter in Beijing is not just a season; it's a multifaceted celebration of culture, history, and modernity. Each activity, from the serene walks in the snow-dusted Summer Palace to the exhilarating ski slopes near the city, contributes to a deeper understanding and appreciation of this dynamic capital.

The winter months in Beijing provide a unique opportunity to see the city in a different light. The low winter sun casts long shadows and a soft, golden light that brings a quiet majesty to its ancient structures. The festive atmosphere during the Chinese New Year adds a layer of vibrancy and excitement, offering insights into the traditions and customs at the heart of Chinese culture.

If you're planning a visit or you're a local seeking to rediscover your city, winter in Beijing is a time of wonder and discovery. It's a season to bundle up and step out, to explore and experience the myriad ways the city embraces and celebrates the colder months. From culinary delights to cultural treasures, Beijing in winter is a journey through a familiar and wonderfully new landscape.

For those who are mesmerized by Beijing's winter charm and are curious about finding cities with similar characteristics, FindCity can be an incredibly useful tool.

So, whether you're tracing the steps of emperors in the ancient palaces, watching skilled performers on the opera stage, or simply enjoying a hot bowl of traditional Beijing hot pot, the winter months in this city are sure to leave you with warm memories that last long after the snow has melted.